Mars Retrograde Flips the Switch


I find Mars retrograde—which begins today (Thu Nov 15) and stretches through Jan 30 08—to be a tricky little devil to put a neat-and-tidy summary on. (Check out past attempts here and here.)

That doesn't mean, however, we won't notice his effects right away. Mars, retrograde or not, is rarely subtle.

One thing we know about Mars is his physicality. Mars rules our body's rhythms, the energy we have at our disposal to go grab what we want, and the strength and steadfastness to insist upon satisfaction or success… even if it comes to blows. Mars symbolizes the 'fight or flight' instinct—and whichever option we choose, it plays out with real fists or feet (or at least their metaphoric equivalents).

As such, Mars is the definite yang to Venus's yin: a projective force with which we thrust ourselves into the outward world, asserting desire externally in a more direct manner… as opposed to the indirect and/or receptive mechanisms of attraction associated with Venus.

(Compare these descriptions with the traditional gender stereotypes linked to men/Mars and women/Venus. Mars is the hunter who sets his sights on a tasty piece of prey, then stalks and attacks it. That leaves Venus as more the gatherer, collecting the fruits that have already presented themselves, without the need for confrontation.)

When a planet goes retrograde (or appears to move backwards through space), the interpretive wisdom tells us its archetypal qualities are flipped on their sides. Retrograde planets are thought, then, to be more internally focused, reversed, inhibited or otherwise operating in some alternative fashion.

And when it's Mars retrograde we're talking about, the number-one effect I've detected is a significant shift in the flow of our physical energies… as if our bodies are functioning according to one type of electrical current, and then a switch is abruptly flipped, and a whole different type of current is now coursing through us. The specific symptoms vary from person to person, based on how our vital life-force usually works. Whereas you might typically be tired in the mornings and peppy in the evenings, suddenly these daily tides are reversed. If you're normally high-voltage, you might feel somewhat depleted; for low-energy types, a burst of extra steam may arrive.

Sleep patterns, dietary habits and exercise routines are often affected by strange cravings or tendencies, anything that bucks the regular state of affairs. And as you might expect, the little physical inconveniences generally associated with quick seasonal or climate changes are also likelier to crop up—stomachaches, headaches, colds, allergies, or amorphously 'weird' feelings. During Mars retrograde, it's smart to listen closely to your body's messages… and to adjust your activities accordingly, in response to these variances.

Likewise, the life issues, topics and projects to which you've been giving your high-priority attention may also morph into less-(or differently-)urgent concerns. Meanwhile, those that recently fell by the wayside or to the bottom of the pile could find their way to the top again. Been focused on work, at the expense of good health? Now, it may become much more appealing to ditch the office early and hit the trails for a long jog. Just barely getting the day-to-days done, while boxes of unsorted-through crap are filling your living room, waiting to be unpacked and put in place? This could be your time to get that long-postponed chore out of the way… and let the ordinary housework go for a few weeks.

This is a different twist to interpretations of Mars retrograde that might, instead, stress the appearance of obstructions to the usual manner in which we put forth our efforts, essentially blocking us from moving ahead as we'd typically anticipate from our self-assertive actions. Rather than focus on what we suddenly can't do as cleanly or easily, I prefer to see this as a switching of gears: If one thing's not flowing, simply try another… as opposed to continuing to fiddle with the same perturbing standstill situation and getting nowhere fast.

But this requires, again, that we pay special attention to the energetic signs. Should we imagine ourselves to be more powerful than the apparent macro-trends, we'll probably continue along, doing what we're doing… refusing to notice our fatigued or jumpy bodies, our stalled endeavors, our immovable obstacles and adversaries… and eventually, sure, reach our finish line, without letting Mars (or any other astro-influencer, for that matter) distract our unwavering spirit.

Yet, at what cost? How much energy must we needlessly waste, when it might've been wisely rechanneled to other zones for the temporary now? How many bothersome bodily nuisances, disappointingly slow developments, and inconclusive confrontations should we endure, before deciding to give it a rest until the timing is better? And what else could we have done in the time being, perhaps more productively—and thus less frustratingly—than what we stubbornly insisted on persisting with, come hell or high-water?

The current sign of Mars as he ushers in 2 months of retrograde motion—Cancer—clues us in on how best to proceed. As I told you previously, Mars is not very at home in Cancer, where his forward-moving self-possession is unavoidably hijacked by such inconveniences as emotion, sensitivity and caring. However, if we're willing to heed its bits of instinctive knowledge along the way, and continually respond to the emotional landscape as we move (rather than assuming we knew how it should go from the very beginning, and refusing to alter our course), we can follow along and save the extra energy and stress by pausing, turning around or jumping out when it suddenly 'doesn't feel right'.

Should we find ourselves stranded at sea, alone in the deep water and eager to survive, would we merely swim toward the shore at a fevered pace, perhaps tiring out too quickly and dooming our lives to end in drowning… or would we combine swimming with treading, all the while noting which direction the currents are cycling, so we might use them to carry us to safety (though possibly at a different shore than we'd presumed)?

These introductory remarks will certainly give you something to chew on, as we enter this lengthy Mars retrograde phase, but it won't be the last you hear of it. On the contrary, this Mars business is tied right in with the biggest astrological news of the coming months—the Jupiter-Pluto conjunction in December, followed closely by both of those planets entering Capricorn—so, in a sense, this is like an initiatory period. The associated aggravations are a part of the process… and facing them will only help us make the most of the quantum-leap astro-transition we're starting to head into.